Hunger / Fullness Scale – Listening to Your Body Cues

Do you think it’s simple to listen to your hunger & fullness cues to tell you when and how much to eat? News flash: For most people, it’s not! It takes practice to develop that higher level of attunement with your body. By applying Intuitive Eating principles to your daily life, listening to  hunger cues can become a trusted signal telling you that it’s time to eat a meal or snack. It also takes practice to allow your fullness level to signal when you would like to stop eating.

Simply by starting to check in with your body and observing what it feels like to be hungry can be a good starting point. In my nutrition groups, I’ve asked a lot people what symptoms they feel when they’re hungry. A common one is the growling stomach. But I also hear “shaky, dizzy, nauseous” very often. That’s a ravenous hunger, and if you feel this type of hunger frequently, you are probably not eating enough at meals, or you are waiting too long to eat or skipping meals/snacks.

If you’re used to dieting or restricting your food intake, you’re also used to ignoring your hunger. You may have used external cues to tell you when to stop eating or other factors that tell you when you are allowed to eat, such as time of day, amount of food left on your plate, or even the number on the scale. I can help you sort through all of those past behaviors and doubts. It’s time to stop measuring progress based on the number on the scale.

hunger fullness scale pdf for listening to hunger cues

Hunger / Fullness Rating Scale

(1) Ravenous hunger
(empty, numb, shaky, dizzy, nauseous)
(2) Extreme hunger
(cranky/moody, headache, painful emptiness in stomach)
(3) Moderate hunger
(urgency to eat, stomach growling, pleasant cues to eat)
(4)  Mild hunger
(comfortable, slight signs of hunger, cravings/thoughts of snacks/meals)
(5) Neutral
(no body or mind cues to eat)
(6) Slight fullness
(feeling of food in stomach, not yet satisfied)
(7) Satisfied
(feeling full and comfortable)
(8) Uncomfortable fullness
(expanded stomach, pressure in belly, overly full, adjusting body position or clothing to improve comfort level)
(9) Extreme fullness
(bloated stomach, sleepy, uncomfortable, unbuttoning clothing or loosening belt buckle to improve comfort level)
(10) Painful fullness
(extreme body discomfort, sharp or dull pain in stomach, nauseous, miserable)

Proceed with caution in feeling hunger or fullness at the ends of this rating scale. As you start to check in with your body more, it will be easier to stay within the sweet spot between 3-7 (for the most part). However, if you are recovering from an eating disorder, substance abuse, or GI issues, or many other diagnoses… you may frequently experience the extreme fullness on this scale, and that’s understandable as your GI tract recovers. Still take care of yourself, and feed yourself regular meals. If you are frequently feeling fullness in your throat or excessive bloating or discomfort, that can be a sign that something is not quite right with your digestion, and you should seek help from your doctor and/or dietitian.

Sometimes, our internal cues and perception of hunger & fullness can be out of whack for other reasons. Certain emotions like nervousness or fear can cause a knot in our stomach that feels like fullness or nausea that would signal to us not to eat. Even menstrual cycles affect hunger & fullness through slowed digestion, constipation, and increased metabolism causing increased appetite. It’s helpful to be aware of your emotions and their impact on your body cues (working with a therapist is super helpful for this). And I always recommend tracking your menstrual cycle to be aware of how different phases case you to feel more or less hungry, energized, moody, etc.

Click here to download my Hunger / Fullness Rating Scale as a printable pdf.

P.S. if you are tired of numbers, check out @peacewithfoodapp

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